About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for the ‘education’ tag

Academic Earth — Lectures from the Best

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Academic Earth says they are “an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world class education.”

They’ve launched a site with a few hundred lectures from top professors at top universities. Top rated lectures include:  The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1845-1877 Yale / History by David W. Blight, Linear Algebra MIT / Mathematics by Gilbert Strang, Game Theory Yale / Economics by Benjamin Polak, Computational Science and Engineering I MIT / Mathematics by Gilbert Strang and Computer Science II: Programming Abstraction Stanford / Engineering and Julie Zelenski.

I’m watching “The Civil War and Reconstruction Era.” …and I love the “dim the lights” feature on the web page, which tunes out all of the page surround.

I hope they succeed. I’d also be happy to see them just keep adding lectures.

Their site is at: www.academicearth.org

Written by Al Stevens

March 25th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Technology in the Classroom — another study finds no value

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I was disappointed to see the results of this study, but not surprised.

The study, Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products Findings From Two Student Cohorts, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, reports on student test scores of a second year of use of selected software programs aimed at 1st grade reading, 4th grade reading, 6th grade math, and algebra I. They looked at 10 software products and found that only one had a statistically significant effect. Given that there were 10 chances, that one should also be considered suspect.

Until we really understand the details of human learning we will not be able to build or evaluate effective teaching technology. These broad brushed studies provide such a coarse look at the overall process that we can conclude very little. The study itself ends with a list of caveats that include: “the study preclude direct comparisons of product effects”;  “Because districts and schools volunteered to implement particular products, their characteristics differ and these differences may relate to effectiveness”; “The study design does not rule out the possibility that a product the study finds to be ineffective could be effective if implemented by other districts or schools”.

So why did the Department of Education bother to do it?

It would be much better to spend resources on understanding the learning process with enough rigor to construct educational environments that improve it.

Written by Al Stevens

March 13th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Opening Education Reviewed in Science

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In an article in Science, Published on January 2, Marshall S. Smith explores the history of and promises and challenges for Open Education Resources (OER). Growing out of MIT’s decision, in 2000, to make available on the Web the core content of all its courses the movement rapidly grew with dozens of universities worldwide making their course content freely available.

In the article Smith says: “The confluence of the Web and a spirit of sharing intellectual property have fueled a worldwide movement to make knowledge and education materials open to all for use. … In 2007 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a study of the use and prevalence of OER in the developed world, concluding that ‘An apparently extraordinary trend has emerged.'” Today, more than 7,800 courses are available on the web.

Smith looks at several issues in developing an infrastructure for the OER. These include technical, social, cultural, political, legal and financial issues.

He provides examples of OER which include: Science simulations designed by C. Wieman of the University of British Columbia and University of Colorado, MIT OpenCourseWare, and the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education’s HippoCampus.

Article: Opening Education (subscription)

Written by Al Stevens

January 15th, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Engaging Places Website Launched

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Engaging Places, a UK website to assist teachers in using buildings and places as a teaching resource, launched at BETT 2009, an education technology trade show in London. An initiative supported by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and English Heritage, the site lists more than 300 buildings, venues, and organizations and includes links to resources and maps.

Website: Engaging Places

Written by Al Stevens

January 15th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

New Grant Opportunity – HP Innovations in Education

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Hewlett-Packard  has announced a grant program for 2 or 4 year colleges and universities that offer degree programs or courses that lead to degrees in engineering, computer science, or information technology. In the US, HP plans to award approximately 10 grants to public or qualified private colleges or universities. Each grant is valued at more than $240,000 in HP technology, cash, and professional development in the following areas:

  • Leadership Capacity – creating a global network of administrators and key faculty who implement innovative approaches to curriculum, instruction, and the use of technology to enhance undergraduate learning and research
  • Digital Learning Environments – using technology to fundamentally redesign the learning experience in ways that lead to increased student engagement and academic success; can include innovations in online learning, virtual worlds, gaming for learning, and simulations
  • The Undergraduate Design & Research Experience -making engineering real and relevant by involving engineering undergraduate students in design and research challenges that address real needs in society; can include local and/or global service learning
  • Pre-College Outreach – engaging administrators, faculty, and undergraduate students to work with secondary school teachers and students, increasing awareness and interest in high-tech degree programs and careers

Announcement on the HP Website: Teaching, Learning & Technology in Higher Education

Written by Al Stevens

January 15th, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Informal Settings Can Boost Science Learning

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A report by the National Research Council concludes that experiences in informal settings can significantly improve science learning.

The report, written by a committee co-chaired by  Philip Bell and Bruce V. Lewenstein outlines six “strands” of science learning that can happen in informal settings, and these strands could help refine evaluations of how well people are learning in these environments.  For example, learners can experience excitement and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world.  They can come to understand and use concepts and facts related to science.  They can learn how scientists actually conduct their work using specialized tools and equipment.  And they can develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.

Some of the conclusions are:

– There is strong evidence that educational television can help people learn about science, although few studies have been done on the effects of other media, including digital media, video games, and radio.

– There is also some evidence that participation in informal science learning — for example, volunteering in the collection of scientific data — can promote informed civic engagement on science-related issues such as local environmental concerns, says the report.

– Experiences in informal settings can significantly improve science learning outcomes for individuals from groups which are historically underrepresented in science, such as women and minorities.  Evaluations of museum-based and after-school programs suggest that these programs may also support academic gains for children and youth in these groups.

The report offers recommendations for people who design programs in these settings, such as the creators of museum exhibits.  The programs and environments should be interactive and designed with specific learning goals in mind.  They should provide multiple ways for learners to engage with concepts within a single setting.  And they should prompt visitors to interpret what they have learned in light of their prior experiences and interests.

Report: Museums, Zoos, After-School Programs Boost Science Learning

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Technology Disparities in Wichita Falls Schools

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The stampede of technology is kicking up so much dust in Wichita Falls schools that a new inequity is quickly emerging. The fortunate schools that have and use their technology well, and those who can’t afford much and are quickly falling behind.

Article: High tech, no tech

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Online Education Reviewed in Science

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In the January 2 issue, as part of a special section on Technology and Education, Science published a review of online education.

The article authors,  A Frank Mayadas, John Bourne and Paul Bacsich assert that “The millennials [students born after 1980] are changing the way teaching and learning must be approached. Mobile learning with podcasts, text messaging, and virtual worlds will be the future norm, giving faculty new tools through which to extend and enhance the educational experience.”

The article limited discussion to online education in traditional, degree-granting institutions. They included “blended courses” that featured both online and face-to-face time. Points they make include: annual enrollment has increased by about 20% per year for the past six years; about half the enrollments are full-time students attracted to online-learning because of convenience or scheduling; most enrollments are at public institutions, all of which offer some online instruction; only about half of the traditional private institutions offer for-credit online courses; the 3.94 million students taught online represent about 22% of the estimated national student population; the adjunct/permanent faculty ratio teaching online courses mirrors the ratio found in face-to-face teaching; online instructors assert that preparing and teaching online courses is more time-intensive than for face-to-face courses; online enrollments are dominated by traditional institutions rather than  for-profit ones; institutions that have adopted online education are viewing it as a strategic asset.

Article: Online Education Today (subscription)

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

DARPA Grant Awarded to Develop Tutoring System Based on Individual Progress

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A University-of-Arizona-led team was just awarded a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to create a tutoring system that can tailor teachings based on individual progress. As reported by UA, the team — headed up by UA computer science department head Paul R. Cohen — is attempting to maximize a tutoring system model by using enormous amounts of data about learners to improve the feedback provided by an intelligent tutoring system.

Cohen is working with Carole Beal, a UA cognitive science professor, UA computer science doctoral degree candidate Derek Green and Yu-Han Chang, a research scientist with the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California on the one-year project to create the system.

Article: New Grant-funded Project Meant to Improve Educational Technology

Written by Al Stevens

January 13th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

EDUCAUSE Announces Top Teaching and Learning Challenges for 2009

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Educause, the higher-education technology group, has released the Top Teaching and Learning Challenges 2009. They are:

1. Creating learning environments that promote active learning, critical thinking, collaborative learning, and knowledge creation.
2. Developing 21st-century literacies — information, digital, and visual — among students and faculty members.
3. Reaching and engaging today’s learners.
4. Encouraging faculty members to adopt, and innovate with, new technology for teaching and learning.
5. Advancing innovation in teaching and learning with technology in an era of budget cuts.

Project wiki: Top Teaching and Learning Challenges, 2009 Wiki

Written by Al Stevens

January 13th, 2009 at 7:01 pm